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Three tactical patterns from Real Madrid’s LaLiga and Champions League triumphs

We looked into some patterns in Madrid’s pressing, chance creation, and xG differential during the triumphant 2021-22 season.

Real Madrid CF Celebrates Winning The UEFA Champions League Final 2021/22 Photo by Diego Souto/ Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Apart from the fact that Real Madrid closed out the 2021-22 season with the Champions League and La Liga titles, the season itself was quite an interesting one from a tactical perspective. Today, we tackle this from three vantage points.

Expected Threat (xT)

Real Madrid attacks from the left — that’s the worst kept tactical secret in Europe. With arguably the world’s best-left winger last season — Vinicius Jr — in their ranks, it shouldn’t be a secret either. This pattern prevailed and was sustained in LaLiga over the course of 38 games.

In the Champions League, however, the hotter xT map on the right side is attributed to Rodrygo Goes. He played almost 300 minutes more than Marco Asensio in the Champions League and was much more threatening on the right-wing. Asensio played close to 500 minutes more than Rodrygo in the league.

Defensive Actions

Since defensive actions encapsulate recoveries, tackles, interceptions, aerial duels, and clearances, the heatmap is at its hottest inside Real Madrid’s box (primarily due to the clearances).

In the league, Real Madrid’s (own) zone 14 was not an area that was heavily pressed. This area was better guarded in the Champions League, and defensive actions were more prominent.

In terms of high pressing, it’s also evident that in LaLiga, Madrid had been more aggressive especially closer to the central channels. In the Champions League, the team was comparatively more conservative with their press.

xG and xGA

Real Madrid’s expected goals (xG) and expected-goals-against (xGA) patterns are a good indicator of how dominant they actually were throughout the league campaign. The xG trend line was consistently positive while the xGA trend line was on a decline apart from a late spike near the end of the season.

The debacle vs. Barcelona, the frenzied game against Sevilla and some championship nerves right before winning the title attributed to this spike. But Real Madrid maintained a healthy difference between their xG and xGA for almost for the entirety of the season.

Real Madrid’s xG differential in the Champions League is a different story though. There have been plenty of matches where the opponent outnumbered the eventual Champions in terms of creating quality chances. However, you can’t knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League with just great chances. You have to bury this team to knock the wind out of their sails in Europe. They created a lot of good chances but no great team from France or England was able to bury Real Madrid.

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